Where to start?
We strongly advice that your child first takes a well structured assessment test
covering the subject areas of your region. You could pick questions out from practice
papers for all topics or contact an 11 Plus tutor to do it for you. You may need
to pay a tutor to get this done. 11Plus Learning also gives assessment tests in English,
Maths and Verbal Reasoning, free of charge.
Having assessed your child’s academic standards, gathering the relevant material
is the next step. Many 11 Plus regions set exams in three main subject areas; English,
Maths and Verbal Reasoning. Then, there are those regions which also measure Non-Verbal
Reasoning skills. Some regions only require Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning
tests. You would also need the past exam papers for your region, if available.
You should also contact your child’s primary school to find out if they have an 11
Plus support policy.
How much practice is needed?
The amount of practice or revision needed depends on various factors. You child’s
academic level and ability obviously plays the most important role. How that ability
is reflected on what 11 Plus exams measure is a different matter though. Hence, the
importance of the assessment test. Specifics of your 11 Plus region is another important
factor that could have a bearing on the amount of work to be done. So, you need to
find out what subjects are tested in your area. Will there be any meaningful contributions
for the preparation from your primary school, is another consideration.
If your child is one of the top achiever in the current school and further help from
school will be forthcoming, up to 10 practice papers could be sufficient for English
and Maths for instance. Verbal Reasoning would be a new concept for your child, so
methods for different question categories would first have to be taught and practiced.
Following that anything between 10-20 timed practice papers could also be enough.
However, we would also recommend at least 2 mock exams covering all exam subjects
of your region.
If your child is achieving average or just above average, considerably more practice
work would be required and you would be advised to start the revision process at
least 7-10 months before the exams. In any case, more than 10-11 months of revision
would not be recommended. In this case, we would recommend at least 4 mock exams.
However, if you are planning ahead, well in advance of the 11 Plus exams, you may
consider helping the child raise his/her attainment levels in the school, especially
in Maths or English.
Please note, the recommendations above are for guidance only and parents would need
to evaluate their own circumstances in accordance with the progress of the revision
What materials are available?
In some areas you can purchase past exam papers, usually last couple of years. You
can find out if this is the case for your area by contacting the your LEA. (See our
‘Useful Links’ section.)
In addition to past exam papers, you would also need to purchase some practice papers.
Most practice papers in the market cover almost all question categories and you can
get papers for all subject areas. Going to a book shop and studying different publishers’
papers would help to decide which ones are more suitable for you. This is not an
easy task, but asking other parents who have already gone through the experience
in the previous years would be great help. Check out our forum pages for discussions
on the topic or you can sign up to our forum and post your own questions.
We also publish our brand of practice papers which cover all question categories.
(See our relevant section.)
When to start using full practice papers?
In the early stages of the revision process, it is not advisable to use the full
practice papers. Children should be familiarised with different question categories
with some repetitive practice with each category, before going on to full papers.
How to monitor the revision process?
Going through hundreds of practice papers alone does not get your child to one of
those top-notch schools, unless your child is taught methodically and progressively.
The actual exam will feel nothing like the practice sessions done in the familiar
circumstances and comfort of your home.
There are two sides to the methodology question. First one is of a strategic nature
and concerns the general approach to the whole exam process. The other is to do with
the actual ways of working out the answers for individual question groups. These
concepts and further details of the subject based revision process are covered in
the ‘Time Management’ and ‘Subject Specific’ sections of the FAQ.
What types of questions are asked in the 11 Plus exams?
There are many categories of questions in the three subject areas in Essex. Make
a list of all these categories under each subject. Looking at last 5-6 year's past
exam papers you can compile a comprehensive list that will cover most, if not all,
English is easier to analyse. Basically, you have the comprehension section, where
the questions range from true and false statements, equivalent words section, choice
of descriptive phrases relating to the passage, closest meaning questions, express
with your own words questions etc. Then, there are the punctuation and grammar questions(s).
Maths questions on the other hand, come from a larger pool covering many areas. Simple
additions and subtractions, decimals, fractions and percentages, measurements, problem
solving, graphs, pie charts, date and time calculations, areas, angles, formulae,
geometrical shapes, sequences, symmetry, patterns, averages, probabilities, temperatures
Verbal Reasoning has about 25 categories of questions in total, ranging from words
with opposite meaning, closest words, compound words, incomplete words, jumbled words,
hidden words, sums, letter series, number series, words x codes, arranged words,
true statement, jumbled sentences, unrelated words, word pairs with a missing letter,
number coded words etc. Then, there are the questions where you need to move a letter
from one word to another to make two new words or completing sentences with a choice
of given pair of words etc. The list goes on.
You need to make sure that all these question types are covered in your child's revision
How to structure the revision process?
With English, get your child to do as many comprehension practices as possible. Device
different ways of enhancing their vocabulary - vocabulary is the most important single
area that will have a great bearing not only for the English test, but also for the
Verbal Reasoning. For maths and verbal reasoning start with repetitive practise questions
for each category. Let them do one type of question for a day or two. Then, introduce
another category and so on. Then, combine few categories together eventually going
onto doing the timed full practice papers.
Let them do as many full practice papers as possible in all subjects, without actually
overworking them to an extent that they loose interest. Try and device ways of making
them enjoy the tests, by structuring the papers so that the children see their progress
at every step and are encouraged by it.
Make sure you give them about 4-5 full mock tests under exam conditions - that is,
precisely as laid down in the actual 11+ exams. For example for many regions: English
first (35 minutes), 10-15 minute break, maths (40 minutes), 30 minutes break and
verbal reasoning (45-50 minutes), with time reminders every 15-20 minutes. If you
can, doing one of the mocks in a non-local library may be useful. Try to find the
best corner that simulates exam conditions.
How long the revision sessions should be?
Remember that you are dealing with a 10-year-old child. Don't expect their concentration
span to be anywhere close to an adult's. So, make sure your revision sessions do
not go beyond an hour. Do it regularly without fail but limit it to an hour each
time. (Only the mock tests should go beyond this) Try to work out at what part of
the day your child's comprehensive faculties are at their best. Some do extremely
well after playing with friends for an hour or so, others may be sharper and more
attentive early in the morning before school. Plan the practice sessions at least
a day in advance. Make sure not only you know the answers to each question, but the
methods of working them out which best suits your child as well.
Things to watch out for.
First and far most, it is very important to get your child into the habit of reading
the question carefully to ensure what is actually asked is understood correctly.
Most mistakes are made by rushing into working out the answers without fully reading
the question. Having repetitively solved so many questions of similar wording, the
child may fall into the habit of jumping to conclusions after the first few words
and skip reading the rest of the question. You must teach your child to guard against
It is very easy to fall into the trap of giving the right answers, but to a wrong
question. Here is a simple example: You have 3 red, 5 blue, 4 yellow, 7 black and
2 white marbles in a bag. To win a price you need to pick a red ball. What is the
probability of not winning a price? The answer is 1/7. Or is it?
What paper formats to use?
Apart from the variation of what subjects are tested in different areas, the format
of the exam papers also differs. Basically, there are two formats. Standard and Multiple
Choice. Some regions have a mixture of both standard and multiple choice formats
for different subjects.
We strongly recommend that the majority of the revision work is carried out using
the standard versions. Our 11 Plus teaching experience makes us strongly believe
that working with standard formats would promote better and longer lasting learning
and multiple choice versions should only be used to get children acquainted with
this format if this applies to your region. The fundamental reason behind this belief
is that the multiple choice papers are a lot easier, as answers, including the correct
one, are given in the answer sheet and therefore standard versions are more challenging
and help better develop child’s question answering, reasoning and problem solving
When to start the mock exams?
A mock exam is an exam covering all test papers of your area conducted under exam
conditions. How many mock exams should be done depends on the conditions mentioned
at the beginning of the FAQ section.
The mock exams should start about 2-5 months before the actual exams, again depending
on those factors. Each mock should be followed by at least 3-4 weeks of further revision
and practice sessions aimed at improving the weaker areas shown by the mock, for
further developing the time management skills and to consolidate the strong areas.